Holidays near Zakopane and eating out
Some people may get the impression that Poles eat nothing but pork and drink only vodka and then in large quantities, because both are plentiful, but the reality is very different. One thing is certain, you will eat very well in Poland and cheaply by western standards. The food in restaurants and cafes is prepared from fresh and natural ingredients - you'll notice and appreciate the difference.
Poles produce some of the best soups in the world, any westerner will be able to find something to enjoy. Borsch or beetroot soup is one of the most famous but westerners will like Grochowka, which is a pea soup, Goulash soup, mushroom, or any of the vegetable soups. You will not find any spicy foods but you will come across herbs that you may not use at home like dill and garlic in certain foods.
Pork and chicken escalopes are present on most menus, as are sirloin steaks, trout, salmon and roast lamb. You can then select vegetable accompaniments to go with your meat.
The preparation of vegetables is slightly different from that in the West. Carrots, cabbage and other veggies tend to be served grated, whether cooked with a hot meal or uncooked in a salad. Potatoes in all their forms; chips (frytki), roast potatoes, mashed potato and potato pancakes (placki) are commonly available.
Vegetarians may find that they have to be a little inventive in Poland - the idea of vegetarianism hasn't caught on strongly yet, but you will find cheese, egg, potato and other vegetable dishes. Cheese filled pancakes (nalesniki) are particularly good as are most mushroom dishes.
Traditional foods, beloved of expatriate Poles are:
Pierogi, a type of large ravioli filled with cabbage or potatoes and cheese, meat or fruit and sometimes served with a little butter. These may be a little bland and heavy for most western palates.
Bigos is a picked cabbage based stew to which a variety of meats is added. It is served with either potatoes or bread and is quite delicious. Some may find it an acquired taste.
Golabki (literally translates as pigeons) is a firm favourite. It's basically cabbage leaves stuffed with a rice and meat mixture - a Polish version of the Greek dolmas.
The various salamis must have a mention - they are consumed in great quantities by people who know about them - they're made from 100% meat with garlic and other flavourings. They're equally delicious fried with eggs for breakfast, in sandwiches or included in bigos for dinner. There probably isn't a Pole alive who does not eat salami occasionally.
There's much more importance attached to savoury food than sweet, and it's likely that you will find only a limited choice of desserts; cake (Poles make excellent cakes, less sweet than ours), fruit, ice cream, or apple pie cake (Charlotka).
Do try the doughnuts if you get the opportunity. Buy them in the local bakers. They're light, with a 'real' sugar syrup coating and a rose water flavoured jam filling.
One thing that amazed us was the freshness of fruit and vegetables at the markets. Some things have been lost in western society in the name of convenience.
In Zakopane you will come across people selling what looks like small carved wooden objects. These are actually the local goat milk cheese.
Coffee and tea with lemon are available everywhere. If you want milk with your tea, you will have to ask for it especially. Lipton's tea seems to have cornered the tea market in Europe and you are often presented with a selection box from which to choose a black, green or fruit tea. You will also be able to buy fruit juice, black currant is common here which makes a pleasant change. Alcohol is sold in many general stores. The Poles make their own excellent beers which are much cheaper than western beers, they also have over one hundred and fifty different varieties of vodka that you can sample to find your favourite, and in the winter, mulled wine (grzane wino) is available, which we drank in copious quantities. Krupnik, a honey liqueur is equally good for a warm feeling on cold days.
If you're going to drink wine with your meals, we suggest that you stick to Eastern European wines. Imported wines, like French tend to be very expensive - drink those when you get home. We came across some very pleasant Bulgarian wine, and developed quite a taste for Russian champagne at about 14 zlotys a bottle in the shops.
A 10% service charge is added to bills in restaurants, but waiters still appreciate a small tip.
You will find that your money goes a long way in Poland. Eat the best - for westerners there is little difference between the cost of good and superb. But whatever you eat and drink, enjoy and, 'smacznego' i 'na zdrowie' (enjoy and your good helath).
Holiday chalet to rent in Rabka, 25 miles from Zakopane - sleeps 5 to 10 + cot
Traditional Highland five bedroom holiday chalet to rent in peaceful location near ski slopes in Rabka Zdroj, some 40 km away from Zakopane. Access to Zakopane is excellent along a main road, Zakopianka, parts with dual carriageway.
The house has 5 bedrooms (with 3 en-suite bathrooms), family bathroom with jacuzzi bath, 3 living areas, small kitchen, 2 additional WCs. Large driveway. Walled conifer garden. Most rooms with balconies, main balcony with table and chairs plus BBQ.
Full gas central heating making it a very cosy house. Open log fire in a leisure room to sit around and enjoy.
Rabka is known as the 'town of the world's children'. It's built around an enormous central park with swing parks, restaurant, paths and cycle trails. There are 3 ski slopes in winter and an ice skating rink. In summer enjoy horse and cart rides, swimming pools, Rabkoland funfair.
There is plenty of pampering and beauty shops locally for aromatherapy and other massages. Visit geo-thermal baths for hot swimming pools at 26 degrees. Swim in the steam, even in winter.
Bus fare into Krakow is just 12 zl each way (takes just over an hour), much less to Zakopane.
Click on the photograph of this house for details of self-catering near Zakopane and for a wealth of information about southern Poland. Telephone +44 (0) 1245 325 273 for bookings and information.